Indianapolis, IN (SportsNetwork.com) - Bitter rivals add another chapter to their long-standing relationship on Saturday afternoon, as the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan Wolverines meet in the semifinals of the 2014 Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Ohio State, the fifth seed in this event, escaped its first-round bout with 12th-seeded Purdue on Thursday, 63-61, and then mounted the largest comeback in Big Ten Tournament history by battling back from 18 points down in the second half to knock off No. 4 seed Nebraska in Friday's quarterfinal round, 71-67. As a result, the Buckeyes have reached the semifinals for the sixth straight year, and the ninth time in history. OSU is the defending champion, and owns five Big Ten Tournament titles in all.
As the Big Ten's regular season champ, Michigan is the No. 1 seed in this event, thus earning a first-round bye. The team's first tournament action was in Friday's quarterfinals against ninth-seeded Illinois, and the Wolverines were fortunate to advance as they needed to score the final bucket of the game to prevail in a 64-63 final. The victory was the sixth straight for UM, dating back to the regular season of course, and they are seeking their first championship game appearance since winning, and later vacating, the very first Big Ten Tournament back in 1998.
Ohio State owns a 93-74 lead in the all-time series with Michigan, but it was the Wolverines who came out on top in the only meeting between the two during the regular season.
In that game, played on Feb. 11 in Columbus, Michigan hit eight 3-pointers and claimed an 18-11 edge in points from the foul line to fight back from a four- point halftime deficit to notch a 70-60 victory. The combined efforts (38 points, 16 rebounds, six assists) of Nik Stauskas, Derrick Walton, Jr. and Zak Irvin countered the outstanding individual performance turned in by OSU's LaQuinton Ross (24 points, seven rebounds).
Ross put forth another tremendous effort in helping Ohio State upend Nebraska in Friday's tournament matchup, as the Buckeyes' leading scorer on the season logged a double-double consisting of 26 points and 13 rebounds. Amadeo Della Valle was the only other player for coach Thad Matta's club to reach double digits in the scoring column, as he came off the bench to net 12 to go with six boards and three blocked shots. As a team, the Buckeyes made good on 45.5 percent of their field goal attempts, but managed just a 4-of-18 showing from 3-point range. Nebraska on the other hand, drained six treys, but shot just 36.7 percent from the floor overall, while coming up short in the rebounding battle, 43-34.
Jordan Morgan hit a short shot with less than eight seconds remaining in regulation to lift Michigan to its narrow victory over Illinois in Friday's duel in Indianapolis. Despite his late-game heroics, it wasn't Morgan who kept the Wolverines in contention, but rather Stauskas, the Big Ten Player of the Year, who tallied 19 points thanks to a 9-of-10 showing at the free-throw line. Glenn Robinson III tallied 15 points and seven rebounds, and Caris LeVert pitched in with 13 points, five boards and four assists for the Wolverines, who shot 44.7 percent from the floor, while turning the ball over eight times. The team's defensive effort limited the Illini to 5-of-17 success on 3-point tries.